Dear sisters, brothers, and all good friends,
May 9, today, is Dan Berrigan's birthday. In honor of his lifelong witness for the Beloved Community, I send these lines from a poem he wrote in the days before the Catonsville Nine action, in which draft files were burned outside the draft office in Catonsville, MD.
For those who have still to hear about Berrigan, see the biography, below his court statement!"We could not so help us God do otherwise," he writes.
What can you not do otherwise, as God's calling is revealed in your life?
How are you changed and called forward by being "bathed in the light of the resurrection"?
On Earth Peace
Sources for statement:
Dan Berrigan's Meditation on the Action of the Catonsville 9
"Our Apologies good friends, for the fracture of good order"
On May 17th, 1968, nine people, including Father Daniel Berrigan and his brother Father Phillip Berrigan, entered a draft board and removed draft files of those who were about to be sent to Viet Nam. They took these files outside and burned them with home-made napalm, a weapon commonly used on civilians by the U.S. forces. They then awaited their arrest by authorities. The following is the statement Dan Berrigan read in court during their trial, as reported in the play, The Trial of the Catonsville Nine.
Some ten or twelve of us (the number is still uncertain) will, if all goes well (ill?), take our religious bodies during this week to a draft center in or near Baltimore. There we shall, of purpose and forethought, remove the 1-A draft files, sprinkles them in the public street with home-made napalm, and set them afire. For which act we shall, beyond doubt, be placed behind bars for some portion of our natural lives. In consequence of our ability to live and die content in the plagued city- to say ‘peace peace’ when there is no peace; to keep the poor, poor; the thirsty and hungry, thirsty and hungry. Our apologies, good friends, for the fracture of good order, the burning of paper instead of children, the angering of the orderlies in the front parlor of the charnel house. We could not, so help us God, do otherwise. For we are sick at heart, our hearts give us no rest for thinking of the Land of Burning Children.
We say: killing is disorder. Life and gentleness and community and unselfishness is the only order we recognize. For the sake of that order, we risk our liberty, our good name. The time is past when good men may be silent, when obedience can segregate men from public risk, when the poor can die without defense. How many indeed must die before our voices are heard; how many must be tortured, dislocated, starved, maddened? How long must the world’s resources be raped in the service of legalized murder? When, at what point, will you say no to this war? We have chosen to say, with the gift of our liberty, if necessary, our lives: the violence stops here; the death stops here; the suppression of the truth stops here; this war stops here. Redeem the times! The times are inexpressibly evil. Christians pay conscious, indeed religious tribute to Caesar and Mars by the approval of overkill tactics, by brinkmanship, by nuclear liturgies, by racism, by support of genocide. They embrace their society with all their heart and abandon the cross. They pay lip service to Christ, and military service to the powers of death.And yet and yet the times are inexhaustibly good
solaced by the courage and hope of many.
The truth rules, Christ is not forsaken.
In a time of death, some men--
the resisters -- those who work hardily for social change--
those who preach and embrace the truth--
such men overcome death,
their lives are bathed in the light of the resurrection,
the truth has set them free.
In the jaws of death,
they proclaim their love of the brethren.
We think of such men
in the world in our nation in the churches
and the stone in our breast is dissolved
we take heart once more.
Daniel Berrigan, Jesuit priest, teacher, poet, and activist, was born in 1921, and ordained by the Order of the Society of Jesus in 1952. He is the author of many books of poetry and prose, including Time without Number, America is Hard to Find, and Night Flight to Hanoi.
Influenced by Dorothy Day and the pacifist Catholic Worker Movement, as well as by his experience with the worker-priest movement in France, Berrigan became an early voice of opposition to the war in Vietnam. He was a sponsor of the National Catholic Peace Fellowship and co-founder of Clergy and Laymen Concerned about Vietnam.
In 1968 he traveled with Dr. Howard Zinn to North Vietnam to escort home three American prisoners of war. Seeing the effects of bombing and napalm on the Vietnamese people further motivated his antiwar activity, including his participation in the Catonsville Nine event.
After Catonsville, Berrigan spent several months underground and after his capture, 18 months in prison. He memorialized the trial in his award-winning play, The Trial of the Catonsville Nine, drawn from court transcripts and later made into a feature film. Berrigan has continued peace activism as a member of the Plowshares movement and has been arrested frequently for his protest actions. He lives today in Manhattan where he continues to teach, write, and work for peace.
Source for bio: http://c9.mdch.org/page.cfm?ID=11